Iron Lord is a role playing adventure game developped internally by Ubisoft and published by Ubisoft. It is a port of the original Atari ST game, and funnily enough was shipped before the original which still had some last minute bugs in it.
How it all started
I spent the summer of 1988 at the Ubisoft castle, in the Broceliande (Merlin) forest in Britanny. Ubisoft rented this castle to bring artists and programmers together at the same place to work on the next generation of games. Yves Grolet had already been working there for a couple of month and I joined him to work on C64 projects, as we already had some experience with the machine with our previous game "NO".
There were teams working on all the fancy machines of the time. One of them (Ivan Jacot and Orou Mama, left images) was working on a role playing adventure for the Atari ST called Iron Lord. Ubisoft asked us to work on a conversion of the game for the Commodore 64.
At the end of the summer, I went back to belgium to start my Bachelor in computer technology at the Don Bosco Insitute. The deal was I would continue working remotely on the game from my den when not studying.
I quickly got bored of my studies, and as Ubisoft was pressuring me to join them as an employee I quit after a few month and moved to France to their newly formed internal studios in Carentoir. There, I worked with the C64 team on finallizing the game.
Left, Yves Guillemot, Gerard Guillemot and Christine Burgess-Quemard, Ubisoft heads at the time.
Above, La Gree de Calac, Ubisoft's castle
Left, me 19 y/o, working at the Ubisoft studios in Carentoir
Below, Guillemot offices were in a warehouse in Carentoir.
The Ubisoft studio was another building right behind this building.
In the beginning of the project, I used a Koala tablet along with Koala Painter software. Later I switched to Advanced Art Studio which was also compatible with the Koala tablet but offered more precise controls and features.
Koala painter had the ability to work simuntaneously on two images and copy/paste parts from one to the other.
Advanced Art Studio allowed to use various inputs such as Joystick, Amiga mouse or Koala Pad.
The difficult part of this produciton was we could not exactly port the original images (from the Atari ST version) because of the different ratio and hardware constraints. So we had to somehow keep the spirit of the original and draw them from scratch. Remember at the time there was no way of transfering image data from the ST to the C64.
Sometimes I would start an image and was asked to rework the layout because it was too far from the original:
Images from the game that I worked on
Reviews and articles
When I arrived at the Castle in the summer of 1988, I quickly realised this was not going to be an experience like any other. It was a remote place without much connection to the outer world. There was a huge park of several square kilometers of land and forest all around the castle and we would spend hours wandering in the fields and forest talking with other creatives and programmers about games, art, music and other subjects. I only stayed two month there but it's an experience I'm not about to forget.
Above picture, Yves with some fellow programmers on one of the property's lake. Right, me 18 y/o on the balcony before leaving the caslte at the end of the summer 88.
We would, from time to time, try to make fun of the bosses, Gerard in particular, so here's what we did one day. At the time, there was no internet, but we did have acces to BBS (Buletin Board System) by using 300 bauds analog modem over telephone lines. As some programmers were coming from the Scene, they were known to be able to connect to some large databases to...hum download games and software.
We told Gerard we just had an artificial intelligence software downloaded along with a huge database that had so much of human knowledge it could answer any question, even personnal ones. So we asked Gerard to sit down to a computer and try it. This was of course all setup. In reality, we had the computer connected with a cable to another one in the adjascent room. Moreover, we had Gerard's girl friend in the other room too, so she could help the guy on the other end answer personnal questions.
Gerard started with fairly generic questions and was really impressed, but we were pushing him to ask private questions. At some point, the 'computer' was telling him some really embarassing stuff, and we had a really hard time not bursting with a laugher. The programmer even had programmed the hard-drive led to blink while the machine was 'thinking' (actually while the girlfriend was typing the answer in the other room). This was so much fun. Would you do that to your boss today?
Original concept: Ivan Jacot & Orou Mama
Programming: Yves Grolet, Laurent Larminier, Guy Mille
Graphics: Franck Sauer, Bruno Kortulewsky, Marc Albinet
Music: Jeroen Tel (Maniacs of Noise)
How to play the game today
If you don't own a real C64, the best is to use the VICE emulator that can be downloaded here.
Then download the game disks (see below).
When in VICE, mount the first disk on drive 8.
The game should start momentarily. I recommend to use an XBOX360 controller if you don't have a joystick (change input device in VICE to XBOX360 controller).
If you own a real C64, one easy way of transfering the game is to use a cartridge with standard flash memory such as the excellent 1541 Ultimate II. You can order one here.
Music (.sid music file and sidplayw executable for windows)